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Pennsylvania Conflicts: 18th Century

by James Hostetler

Pennsylvania Conflicts: 18th Century by James Hostetler

The people living here in the `New World` before the arrival of the white man had no writing to record their own way of life. Consequently, it was the white man with his own judgment and bias that recorded who they were and how they lived. Unfortunately, the names and judgments chosen by the Europeans were not ones that the natives would have picked. To begin with, Christopher Columbus named the people living here Indians because he thought he had reached the East Indies of Asia, a thousand miles mistake that remains to this day. Then, in 1607 John Smith, the founder of Jamestown, labeled the Indians as savages. Unfortunately, that label was reinforced over the next 400 years.

It is important to remember that the Indians were living in America for thousands of years before the arrival of the white man. When the Europeans arrived, the Native American was by means a savage. The Random House Dictionary defines a savage as `a fierce, brutal, or cruel person.` Any fair minded individual who studies Indian cultures can see that the Native American was no more a savage than the white man that took his land.

The European portrayed the Indian as a savage involved in constant warfare. The truth was that the Native Americans were not normally engaged in war. Fighting was something that only occupied a minimal amount of their time. Warriors liked to boast about their feats, but such events were not an everyday occurrence. A family might organize a raiding party to avenge the loss of a friend or relative. Captives taken during raids were often adopted to replace the loss of loved ones. Hundreds of white children and adults were taken into Indian families. Once adopted, they were treated with love and care equal to all others in the family. Families loved to socialize, to sing, to laugh, and have a good time. They worshipped, prayed, and believed in an afterlife. And, they cried upon the death of a loved one. When Henry Bouquet insisted that all white captives be returned, many refused to leave their Indian families. Some resisted, others ran away and returned the their Indian families. Some of the Indians cried when they had to give up their children. Indian families begged white families for permission to visit those that they loved. When visits were granted, the Indians would take presents to those whom they still considered part of their own family.

In 1779 James Clinton wrote, `they never violate the chastity of any women, their prisoner.` Thomas Proctor wrote in his diary how he offered to help Nicholas Demoot return to his white relative. Nicholas refused saying he could not live so agreeable with the white people as with the Indians.

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